Financial Times

Appropriation Bill 2008 challenged by public interest activist

A petition has been filed this week in the Supreme Court by public interest activist Nihal Sri Ameresekere for a determination as to whether any one or more provisions of the Appropriation Bill 2008 are consistent with and/or ultra-vires to the Constitution. Mr. Ameresekere told The Sunday Times FT that the Appropriation Bill is to ensure the proper management of the resources of the people. "The situation of the economy currently is of concern," he added. Last year too, he filed a petition on the 2007 Appropriation Bill and the Court found that all information must be disclosed under the Fiscal Responsibility Management Act.

Mr. Ameresekere submitted that some clauses of the Appropriation Bill 2008 amount to the alienation, relinquishment or removal of legislative power of the people and are inconsistent with articles in the Constitution. The clauses also usurp and subvert the Constitutional mandate that parliament shall have full control over public finance, thereby violating Article 148 of the Constitution.

He further asserted that the Treasury Secretary appointed by the President and being under the control and direction of the Executive, the power attributed to Parliament cannot be alienated, relinquished, removed or transferred to the Executive. He also states that the Bill vests unfettered discretion or authority in the Secretary to the Treasury or any other officer authorized by him, when the Constitution does not attribute any such unfettered discretion or authority, and such is antithetic to the 'rule of law' .

Mr. Ameresekere argues that the Bill violates the basic premise that public finance is held in trust for the people of Sri Lanka, who cannot be denied of the due and proper accountability therefore, which is against the 'rule of law' and that the Bill seeks Parliamentary approval for allocations of public funds, without specifying the public services or specific public purposes for such funds, in violation of Articles 150(2) and 149(1) of the Constitution.

He goes on to state that the Bill violates the Constitutional mandates by not disclosing the 'other funds of the Government' and the utilization of such funds in addition to violating the scheme set out in Chapter XVII of the Constitution for full control by Parliament over public finance. The Bill also violates the 'Directive Principles of State Policy' and 'Fundamental Duties' set out in Chapter VI of the Constitution.
The Attorney General is listed as the respondent in the case. Mr. Ameresekere's submissions was said to have played a major role in the Lanka Marine Services Limited (LMSL) Supreme Court judgment filed by petitioner Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

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